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Solo Sabbatical

4 The set up

So, you are single and you’re looking to take a break from it. What is the next method we can suggest to you in order to go on this sabbatical? Well, we’ve done the dating agency, speed dating and céilí dancing, so the next one we’re going to look at is the set up. We’re all familiar with the set up, yes? Even the expression is enough to send shivers down the most rigid of spines.
The set up usually occurs when well-meaning friends (generally ones who are in a relationship) decide to pair you off with someone that they know who, they say, is just PERFECT for you. PERFECT. Yeah right. If the perfect person was so perfect, how come neither of you had come across one another before? But that’s beside the point. You’re a nice person and you don’t want to come across all demented and bitter in front of the friends who are in a relationship so you nod and smile and try to appear grateful, even if in reality you know that it’s never going to work. Or is it? There is the burning question.
I know lots of people who’ve been set up over the years. Are any of them still together? Em, no, I don’t think so. Did any of them make it beyond the first date? Well, yes, some of them. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. I have one friend who was ‘introduced’ to a guy in 2001 and she didn’t get rid of him until the beginning of 2007. ‘Twas a long six years.
Personally I’ve never been one for the set up myself – it’s too contrived, too pressurised, too awkward. But some time ago I got temporarily distracted from my beliefs and allowed myself to be dragged into one of these scenarios. What I was thinking I’ll never know – put it down to a passing insanity. The do-gooder friend in question was indeed in a relationship – married in fact – and looking back on it I wonder if she was so intent on seeing me go up the aisle too that she didn’t care who it was with. Because the guy she set me up with was so far removed from the type who would normally turn my head that I think perhaps she didn’t know me at all. Or hated me.
First of all, she gave him my number without consulting me. I suppose she was afraid I’d put a stop to the liaison before it ever had the chance to flourish. In any case, she did what did, but at least she warned me so I didn’t keel over with the shock when he called and asked me out on a real, live date.
Now Dublin is not New York and this isn’t Sex and the City – we might be pretty evolved in this country but let’s be honest, the whole dating thing is still a little behind schedule. I mean, people in Ireland do go on dates, but generally after they’ve met on a drunken night out and already have had sex. Anyway, I hadn’t met my set up guy on a booze binge – I’d barely met him at all in fact – but I agreed to the date on the grounds that sometimes it’s better to go against the grain and do something a little differently. So I said yes, not quite sure what to expect, but I was subsequently happy to go along with my suitor’s suggestion that he take me for dinner. I mean, how bad could it be? In a way there’s almost something alluring, albeit in a repellent sort of way, about meeting a semi-stranger in city restaurant. Or so I thought.
It got off to a tepid start. I was less pleased at his choice of restaurant (and I’m not even a food snob) and then to my shame I felt mildly disillusioned when he turned down the waiter’s offer of a wine list, opting for a bottled beer instead. I could hardly order an entire bottle of vino for myself, or even a half bottle, so I had to settle for a glass of house white.
Then he asked for the pork chops. I already had a problem with the fact that they were on the menu so by the time he ordered them I had developed actual issues. I hate pork chops and I’ve no idea why they’ve made a comeback. They remind me of my childhood, of old Ireland, when you came home from school at lunchtime to see an overcooked one on your plate beside a lump of mushy peas. And all you really wanted was a Findus crispy pancake and waffles, or one of those cellophane-wrapped mini pizzas that always managed the miraculous feat of coming out soggy after 15 minutes under the grill. Yum.
Anyhow, back to the date. I was outrageously bored by the time the main course arrived. He was explaining how long it took him to get to work in the morning and I was frivolously wondering how he felt about Jade Goody having cancer. He was talking sport – the GAA no less – and I was thinking of The X Factor. Need I say more? It was like chalk met cheese. By the end of my corn-fed chicken I was suppressing yawns.
Dessert and a drink in a nearby pub made it a long night and by the time I got home I collapsed into bed, exhausted from making the proverbial effort and determined never to repeat the experience. Ever. The set up might work for some, but not for moi.

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